“Mercy Shall Follow Me” proved merciless to the nerves of our Outlander fan roundtable
“Mercy Shall Follow Me” is a title that might suggest some sort of grace being preferred on our Outlander family. But did that happen? We start off with Gerald Forbes (Billy Boyd) and Stephen Bonnet (Ed Speleers) spinning their dastardly plan. This now seems to include killing Jocasta (Maria Doyle Kennedy) and her new husband. Cut to the plan to kill Bonnet that’s been hatched by Jamie (Sam Heughan), Roger (Richard Rankin), and Young Ian (John Bell) which involves luring him there with whiskey and shooting him.
Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and Brianna (Sophie Skelton) commission a new syringe and head out to gather seashells while bonding at the shore. Surprisingly the great plan to kill Bonnet is unsuccessful because Bonnet isn’t at Wylie’s Landing. Surprise! He’s at the shore, and he abducts Brianna. While the Frasers go on the hunt for her, she’s been brought to Ocracoke Island.
Bonnet seems like a different person, offering Brianna gifts and toys and asking her to be parents to Brianna’s son, who he thinks is his. Brianna manages to keep him at arms length by pretending to go along with his plan, teaching him to be a gentleman and even reading to him. He even starts telling her intimate secrets about his darkest fears. It doesn’t last too long since the next morning she tries to give him an excuse to leave, kisses him, and he finally sees through her ruse. She tries to get help from a prostitute but Bonnet then decides to double down on sex trafficking by selling her to a sea captain.
Claire and Jamie, looking for Bree, are directed to a whorehouse and find the prostitute Bree tried to get help from before. They manage to show up as Bonnet is making the exchange for Bree. Vastly outnumbered, Roger kicks the snot out of Bonnet and Bree tells them she wants him brought to Wilmington to stand trial. He’s sentenced to death by drowning, his darkest fear. But before he can drown, Bree shoots him, leading Roger to wonder if it was mercy or so she could assure herself he’s dead. We’re guessing, “Mercy shall follow me,” may have applied in Psalm 23, but probably won’t be applicable in Bonnet’s case?
It was a lot. Let’s roundtable!
E. Margaret (@maggiehenry_) – Cynical Book Purist hoping the next two episodes don’t disappoint.
Radha (@Baaderlander) – Talk Outlander to me on Twitter!
Shoshanna (@PDXRosaNoire) – Children’s book author, jewelry maker and mom of 3 who loves reading, yoga, tea and tacos
Teri (Teri8D) – My early career was the medical field in acute care hospitals for most of my working life, in various positions. I spent nearly 20 years in the operating room as a computer systems administrator. Went back to college to become a classroom teacher. Earned a BA from UNCO, 3 months short of my 50th birthday. Worked about 10 years in elementary education. Now retired, enjoying my husband of nearly 40 years, my adult children, grandchildren, my passions for literature, history, and addiction to historical fiction. Outlander checks all my boxes.
1. Please list the ways you think this plan is just… not a good idea. On a scale of 1-10, how much anxiety did you feel during the men’s plan “kill Bonnet”?
E. Margaret (@maggiehenry_) – I wouldn’t call it anxiety, Bonnet was in hiding and the only way to draw him out was a half cocked Jamie Fraser plan. It was evident to all that Jamie, Roger & Ian wanted Bonnet dead, but Roger had to be the one to do it for Bree. Both Jamie & Roger’s past associations with the captain/pirate have had deadly consequences. But, they’re all completely invested in making sure Bree & Jemmy are safe. I enjoyed watching their testosterone filled bonding time & lots of “let’s go kill something” body language. I really look forward to seeing more of these three fighting together for Fraser’s Ridge. Note to Production: it doesn’t rain THAT much in Wilmington NC for all the mud in the streets on the outdoor sets.
Radha (@Baaderlander) – It continues to be egregious that Jamie, Roger, and Ian feel they can dole out their own justice and kill Bonnet without telling Bree or considering her wishes. But anxiety? Low: 1.
Jenny (@CurlySueChick19) – It didn’t feel complete. Jamie usually has an intricate plan for everything, and with this, it didn’t feel as thought through. I’m surprised they didn’t take more men from the Ridge.
Shoshanna (@PDXRosaNoire) – This plan wasn’t a good idea in that Bonnet always seems to swerve left when you think he’ll swerve right. They trust that he is going to show up for a meet, but of course he sends his men instead. I didn’t feel a great deal of anxiety about the plan to “kill Bonnet”, but that’s only because I’ve read the books.
Teri (Teri8D) – Scale: 8. I was sitting forward in my seat, a bit tense, watching.
2. Twist! Bonnet has kidnapped Bree, and he’s giving her gifts? And he’s trying to be a… family man? This isn’t a version of Bonnett we expected to see. What was your first reaction?
E. Margaret (@maggiehenry_) – I have a love/hate relationship with Stephen Bonnet. I love Ed Speleer’s portrayal, but I also really enjoyed the book character as well. Bonnet is a sociopath in permanent petulant child mode. He certainly isn’t afraid to gouge someone’s eyes out in a public setting, yet entertains the thought of being taught Parenting 101 skills. I hate him for the pain he has so gratuitously inflicted upon others, especially Bree. But, like him because there is a true sadness about him. His nightmare of drowning with no one coming to save him is truly childlike, hence he asks Bree if Jemmy has nightmares. Maybe Bonnet believes little Jemmy can save his soul.
Radha (@Baaderlander) – That it was a temporary thing but Bree could use it to her advantage to buy some time.
Jenny (@CurlySueChick19) – I honestly feel Bonnet is like “Jekyll and Hyde”. He says what he needs to say to get what he wants, but we know his true intention is to just get River Run for himself. He does a really good “song and dance” to try to convince Bree, but I’m glad she’s strong enough and sees right through him.
Shoshanna (@PDXRosaNoire) – I found Bonnet’s attempt to be a “gentleman” a bit of a stretch. To me, it was a persona that he was just trying on in an attempt to get what he wants. He is always calculating and this was just a means to an end.
Teri (Teri8D) – I did not trust him because he has proven many times over, self-preservation is his main goal. He always takes advantage of people and situations. He is a sociopath who enjoys playing cat-and-mouse with his victims.
3. Bree is reading Bonnet Moby Dick and we honestly don’t know what to feel. Were you conflicted watching his attempts to get close to her? Tell us all of your thoughts, this one could get deep.
E. Margaret (@maggiehenry_) – This is the strangest scene of twisted relationships and power exchange. Here is a rapist attempting emotional intimacy with his rape victim coinciding with a parent reading a bedtime story to a child. While many will be triggered with the essence of the post rape kidnapping, Bree is holding herself together enough to enable and manipulate Bonnet in order to survive. In the end, Bonnet sees the manipulation for what it is and it brings reality crashing back in. I found the pacing of this really slowed the episode down to a crawl and wish they’d shortened it to devote more time to the carrying out of the sentencing. It was a spectacle that all of Wilmington attended.
Radha (@Baaderlander) – I’ve never liked attempts to flesh out Bonnet’s character and make him more sympathetic. Showing him get emotional and sharing his fear of drowning – I just don’t know what it serves. I do however think Sophie Skelton and Ed Speleers were great in the scene. Speleers always brings a sense of dread, like anything could make him violent at any second.
Jenny (@CurlySueChick19) – I was honestly worried that he would rape her again. I know he’s not a good guy, but I couldn’t read his intentions during this scene. We only get a little glimpse into Bonnet’s fascination with the sea, but it’s enough to question who he is. I’m glad Bree explained to him what the metaphor of monster was for the book, and I’m glad it became a foreshadowing for Bonnet’s own demise.
Shoshanna (@PDXRosaNoire) – Bree’s sense of self-preservation is strong and I admired her pluck in trying to navigate a way out of the situation. Moby Dick would be an infinitely more interesting read that the finer point of “Animal Husbandry” or whatever that book was about! I did feel slightly bad for him as he related being an orphan, etc. But many people go through difficult childhoods without become monsters, so I wasn’t overly sympathetic.
Teri (Teri8D) – My first thought was, wow, Bree really knows the story very well to be faking that “reading.” She guessed correctly that he could not read, but she was taking a big chance there. I kept thinking he was going to grab the book, throw it across the room, and attack her for trying to “put one over” on him. I believe he was telling the truth about being an orphan and never knowing love, that seemed quite evident and true to his persona. He never genuinely cared about Jeremiah or Bree; his goal was always ownership of River Run–mercenary to the very end. Also, if he did not tell Bree of his fear of the sea taking him it would have interfered with the emotional plot of Stephen’s death.
4. Looks like Bree had a plan, too. This seems like a week for ill-fated plans. What was your initial reaction to both the plan and Bonnet’s reaction, and then its ultimate result?
E. Margaret (@maggiehenry_) – I wasn’t very partial to the plan, Bonnet’s reaction and the result. Felt the weirdly icky intertwined relationships as stated above didn’t work and slowed down the pacing.
Radha (@Baaderlander) – I don’t think Bree had a plan. I think she was very much thinking on her feet and reacting moment to moment.
Jenny (@CurlySueChick19) – I believe Bree tried her hardest to get away from Bonnet, but got scared after what the prostitute told her. She should’ve known he wouldn’t let her leave, but she should’ve tried harder at that kiss! That kiss didn’t even convince me! Haha – I hate the fact that Bonnet automatically sells her off like property when he doesn’t get his way. He never really cared for Brianna and had no intention of becoming a family man.
Shoshanna (@PDXRosaNoire) – Bree seems to overestimate how much influence she could have over Bonnet in such a short period of time. I didn’t believe for a minute that it was going to work. But I don’t fault her for trying. And it at least planted a seed for the prostitute Eppie to make a better choice when Claire confronted her.
Teri (Teri8D) – I felt empathy for Bree willing to do almost anything to free herself of Stephen Bonnet. I did not expect her plan would work, with someone as calculating as Bonnet was, to allow Bree to go alone to fetch Jemmy. Bree is academically superior but has not been exposed to his kind of artful evil and it was bound to fail. She is still young.
5. Gerald Forbes was a bad dude at the beginning of this episode and now he’s an attempted murderer? Were you surprised he lost control that badly?
E. Margaret (@maggiehenry_) – Where was Jocasta’s 6th sense when she needed it? At first I thought she might be setting him up knowing he was shifty, but then he jumped out of his chair and I just couldn’t see Pippin Took getting this angry or greedy. For me, it’s bad casting. Love you Billy Boyd, play sweet characters from now on.
Radha (@Baaderlander) – What a feckless JERK.
Jenny (@CurlySueChick19) – I’m not surprised at all. He’s been working for FREE for Bonnet, and when he realizes all his fortune may be given away, it makes perfect sense that he flipped. I’m not happy he was killed, but Ulysses was protecting Jocasta. That poor woman has been through enough!
Shoshanna (@PDXRosaNoire) – I really was surprised by what happened with Mr. Forbes. I do enjoy when the show can surprise me in a good way compared to what I’m expecting from the novels.
Teri (Teri8D) – Yes. I did not see that coming! I gave him too much credit for greedy survival instincts. In fact, I found it a tad ridiculous. I am not sure if it is written that way in the books, because I stopped reading after book 4. I decided to see if I enjoyed the season more not mentally making book/series comparisons. (I do.) Also, he is such a petite little thing and formidable Jocasta does not seem like she would not be able to fight him off. That scene was important, to establish Gerald Forbes’ death but it really did not work for me.
6. This is the Bonnet we remember. Why do you think he shifted strategies so fast?
E. Margaret (@maggiehenry_) – Sociopath with split personality disorder? After he figures out he’s being manipulated and unconsciously allowed it to happen, as it did when he was almost buried in the foundation of a house, Bonnet loses it. He needs to get rid of Bree STAT, but not before his 45 second “screw the whore” on the settee action. Then it’s off to sell Bree to whoever will take her far, far away. Can we PLEASE get Ron D. Moore back for S6?
Radha (@Baaderlander) – I’m sure he never intended to have a ‘family’ with Bree and Jemmy. He just wanted to try something out.
Jenny (@CurlySueChick19) – Bonnet’s intention was never to become a family man. Once Brianna showed her true colors, he had every reason to show his too.
Shoshanna (@PDXRosaNoire) – Bonnet is an opportunist only looking out for #1. Of course when he sees that Brianna isn’t going to go along with his latest scheme, he pivots to recoup by trying to sell her off. She’s only a thing to him. Classic psychopath.
Teri (Teri8D) – Bonnet only cares about himself. His character was true to form and the only one confused was poor Bree. Bree was not needed and was never part of his plan. The Bonnet plan was always about gaining control of the heir of River Run.
7. Was Roger Mac kicking the snot out of Bonnet satisfying for you? Tell us all about it.
E. Margaret (@maggiehenry_) – I LOVED it. It’s been a tough go to like Roger Mac as production has presented him. But, the turn around has been a good one. Better writing, more protective than hurt Roger & Roger being allowed to bond with all the main characters. Him kicking the snot out of Bonnet proved how deeply he loved Bree & claimed Jemmy as his son.
Radha (@Baaderlander) – Very little Roger Mac has done has been satisfying, unfortunately, including the ‘Roger Mac gets his revenge’ subplot.
Jenny (@CurlySueChick19) – I don’t think he hurt Bonnet enough! I really wish they would’ve killed him on the beach, but the ending was so much more satisfying for Brianna.
Shoshanna (@PDXRosaNoire) – I was glad to see Roger work on Bonnet. Finally, a bit a justice!
Teri (Teri8D) – Both. I am not a fan of violence, but the beating was an important catharsis for both Roger and Jamie. It was a long storyline that needed a resolution. It also brought Jamie and Roger closer. Roger proved he could fight, and Jamie approved.
8. We’re going to end this with Roger Mac’s question to Bree. Do you think it was mercy? Or do you think it was Bree making sure Bonnet was dead?
E. Margaret (@maggiehenry_) – I wish they’d shortened the kidnapping to Ocracoke and expanded upon this final scene. It was much more emotional and high energy in the book and you still had to question why Bree had ended Bonnet’s life. Why have they brought in so much content from book six? It’s throwing off my “Book Purist/Show” balance. Will we ever get to see Bree & Young Adult Willy bonding? Hope so.
Radha (@Baaderlander) – I think both. I do like that she was proactive in ending the matter on her own terms. Even though it went against her initial stance that Bonnet should be held accountable and punished by the law. Bonnet doesn’t deserve mercy. But Bree deserves closure.
Jenny (@CurlySueChick19) – I think it was a little bit of both, especially after Brianna heard a little about Bonnet’s past with the sea. The mercy was allowing him time to reflect his wrongdoings, being hung like that in the water. But I truly believe, after everything that happened to her, she wanted to see him dead, once and for all. I’m proud of Brianna, after everything she went through in the past and during this episode. Now her heart and mind can be at peace with her family.
Shoshanna (@PDXRosaNoire) – I liked that Bree didn’t answer the question either way. It was probably a mix of both and in her mind the matter was closed and she could finally move on. That isn’t to say she might not still have some worries or dreams once in a while, but to be able to wake up from a bad dream and KNOW that he will never hurt you again would be very powerful.
Teri (Teri8D) – I believe it was a little bit of both. Bonnet had escaped death too many times to walk away and not be sure he was dead. This time they had to be sure. I believe Bree’s heartfelt kindness, knowing that Bonnet feared drowning the most, made his inevitable exit quick, before the water overtook him. It will be interesting to see if Roger and Bree discuss this question again, but I suspect they will not talk about Bonnet again in the series.
Final Verdict: “Mercy Shall Follow Me” didn’t have much mercy for our poor nerves
The one critique we’ve had about Outlander this season is when characters act in ways that are completely out of character. This episode felt chock full of that same issue. Consistency of writing and direction issues continue to plague season 5. We’re not really surprised that the creators decided to bring this storyline forward from book 6 and wrap up Bonnet’s storyline this season. But was this the way he should have gone out?
Stephen Bonnet’s transformation was entirely out of left field. Yes they inserted the scene about him being pardoned and wanting to be a gentleman at the top of the episode. But the charm offensive felt wrong almost the entire time he plied it. The distinct lack of self awareness with which he applied it was so disingenuous he came off as stupid. And for Bonnet, a man who has proven himself to be wily, manipulative, smart, and psychopathic, to believe one moment of Brianna’s escape ploy was laughable.
This was in no way was a reflection on the performance of Ed Speleers, who did an outstanding job with the wildly bizarre material. We give him credit for coming off even half as good as he did. There were moments where we felt badly for Bonnet despite knowing just how hideous he is, which made us feel disgusting. Bonnet’s 100% turnaround came out of left field and Speleers is incredibly charming. Him going from wanting to play happy families with her to him selling her into sexual slavery a day later made us feel a whiplash we haven’t felt in a long time. Was this intentional?
To build Bonnet into this big bad villain this season and even compare him with Black Jack Randall is foolish. Black Jack was a multifaceted villain that was explored over and entire season. His villainy had depth. We spent time with him. His depravity was explored over multiple episodes of season one. Bonnet was mentioned several times this season but we actually had to look up the number of episodes he appeared in (it’s four, in case you were wondering). Again, Speleers did fine work, but the season wasn’t structured in a way that allowed Bonnet to be anything more than a caricature.
We have to add a note about Ulysses killing Gerald Forbes in here because not to do so would be remiss. This episode could have used a few less shots of birds flying (why were these here?) and perhaps a mention of the potential consequences of Ulysses killing a white man in the 18th century. We realize it’s likely this will be dealt with in the final two episodes of the season. But to not give Jocasta one line about the risk to Ulysses now that Forbes is dead felt unfair.
But it’s not all bad. We love it when Outlander is good. And while some of the odd shifts in “Mercy Shall Follow Me” made us dizzy, some things made us smile. The wide shots of Claire and Brianna were really beautiful. And while we were smiling at Brianna and Claire reminiscing and bonding we were filled with dread at the silent menace we as the viewer became watching from that far back. That cinematic view was excellent.
It was nice to see Roger throw a few punches this week. We wish Brianna would have had the opportunity to kick a little ass, too. Did she really think that Bonnet was that easily manipulated? While Roger was smacking the snot out of Roger it would have been nice to see him look back at Brianna instead of her father in that moment. Where is the fight and fire everyone always talks about her having? She didn’t feel completely like a victim but she never completely feels like she’s got any sort of agency either.
With two episodes to go we just wonder if goodness and mercy will follow any of the Frasers? With Bonnet gone, how will the ramp up to the end of the season go? Only time will tell!